Saturday, April 06, 2013

Follow the Birders to Goose Pond

Muskrat Den in Marsh
The Kentucky Bird List sends emails to subscribers about sightings in this state, and, of course, Indiana has one too, but I don't subscribe to it. Others in the Beckham Bird Club do, however, and at the board meeting they were talking about a Redshank sighted at Goose Pond, IN. "What's that?" I asked, and as birders do, someone pulled out their smart phone to show me a picture. It is a Eurasian sandpiper-like bird with bright orange-red legs and bill. It doesn't belong in mid-America though, and would be considered a very rare bird here. Hmmm, I've heard about Goose Pond, and this might be a good opportunity to explore it and get a rare bird on the same day. Let's do it! Google maps says it's about 2.5 hours from Louisville, on two lane roads most of the way, to Linton, in western Indiana. "Just look for all the cars and follow the birders."

The flat corn fields spread for miles, with natural gas pumps nodding here and there. Suddenly the sun shines off water, as lakes, ponds and shallow pools in the corn fields announcing my arrival at Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area. The last glaciation flattened most of Indiana, and left a large ice chunk at Goose Pond creating a basin which still retains water due to the clay layer underneath. Farmers fought with the marshiness for years, with limited success. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) purchased the entire 8,000-acre Goose Pond site from a private landowner in 2005. The Goose Pond project is part of several very large Wetland Reserve Projects that NRCS has put together up and down the Wabash River to help re-establish part of the weave of the Mississippi flyway. As a result, Goose Pond is attracting some of the most diverse birds that anyone has ever seen in the state. Listen to these chuckling leopard frogs! I thought they were some kind of strange bird at first.

Northern Shovelers and Blue Winged Teal Ducks
I followed the birders, who all had long faces. "No luck today," they said. Although the Redshank had been sighted for 4-5 days, it was gone now. Goose Pond attracts the normal water birds - ducks, geese, Sandhill Cranes, and sandpipers, but in its short existence, has also hosted a number of very unusual birds for Indiana, including a Roseate Spoonbill, Whooping Cranes (whose whereabouts are not broadcast to the birding world), a Hooded Crane (also from Asia), and Black-necked Stilt.

Look at the normal range for the Redshank! I know that birds can fly from the Arctic to Antarctic on a regular basis, but Indiana is definitely NOT in the normal territory of this bird. I was sorry to miss it. But of course, Goose Pond is about 8,000 acres, and it could easily have moved to a different area, along with the Black-necked Stilt which I also missed. I often wonder how the first birds who needed to move developed the whole pattern of migration. How in the world did this one bird get so far off track and away from everything familiar? Now it will have to find its way home somehow.

American Pelicans
I did, however, get some good views of about 500 American Pelicans, Double Crested Cormorants...
Green-Winged Teal
...some Green-Winged Teal, Northern Harriers, American Kestrels...

Rough-legged Hawk
...and a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk. I actually lugged my scope for at least a mile, moaning about its weight every step. I need a scope wallah - a servant who does nothing but carry and setup the scope when I want it. Had trouble getting it to focus well too, or is that just my eyes at this stage of life? Hooray for Indiana, for restoring wetlands - we need more of them!

1 comment:

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Bird Photography With Smart Phone